Another Fatality Reminds Us of Need for Davis-Woodland Bike Route

davis-bikeI drive on the county roads every day going between Woodland and Davis.  Even during the day, it’s a hazardous bike ride dodging cars and farm equipment with no shoulder and sometimes limited visibilities and other distractions.

At night it is even worse, and what happened on Sunday night was bound to happen.  Terry Tanner, a 71-year old resident of Davis was riding on County Road 99 north of Covell Boulevard at about 9:45 p.m. in the middle of the southbound traffic lane when a car going in the same direction hit him, according to a release from the California Highway Patrol.

The 40-year-old motorist, who was traveling at about 55 mph at the time of the crash, later told the CHP that he did not see the bicyclist.

The force of the collision sent the bike onto a grassy shoulder of the road. Mr. Tanner was thrown onto the car’s windshield and roof.

The bicyclist then came to rest in the southbound lane. The car driver stopped and attempted to prevent an oncoming pickup from hitting the bicyclist but he was unsuccessful.

Back in 2007, responding to the death of bicyclist Willie Lopez, the Vanguard remarked that this “serves as a stark reminder that our county roads are increasingly becoming urban thoroughfares that share narrow lanes with farm machinery, bicyclists and suburban traffic.”

Yolo County Supervisor Matt Rexroad remarked on his blog at the time:  “This should further prioritize a dedicated bike path between Woodland and Davis.”

In 2005 a spike in Multiple-Casualty Incidents led to a task force created by Supervisor Mariko Yamada, to determine why deaths on county roads were increasing at such a high rate.

According to her, no patterns have emerged, but they were able to identify the top 20 most dangerous roadways and intersections in Yolo County, and have obtained a grant to help get data on where road upgrades need to occur.

Yolo County now has a master plan for bikeways and is supposedly actively seeking to produce a dedicated bike path between Davis and Woodland.

That was four years ago and nothing has happened.

There was an October 2007 letter to the editor: “On Monday night, the Bicycle Advisory Committee voted to expedite four capital projects for inclusion in the existing Bicycle Plan, one of which would be a connector ramp from either the Pelz Bicycle Overcrossing or Pole Line overpass to the Old Route 40 bike path that parallels Interstate 80. This is the bike path that is sandwiched between I-80 and the railroad tracks. Currently, the only Davis access to this bike path is from Richards Boulevard (via Olive Drive) or Mace Boulevard. There is no access in between.”

Another victim of the recession?

Mayor Joe Krovoza, himself a strong advocate for bicycling, told the Vanguard, “Good bike lanes on roads may be more feasible, but space is very tight.”

He added that a new dedicated lane, would be “very expensive and not everyone would want the route chosen, so you’d still have folks on the county roads.”

He said, “Laudable objectives, but an organized and concerted constituency in support is not well developed.”

He further noted that bike grant funding formulas do not favor inter-city dedicated paths and road funding formulas do not favor bikes.

Still, this is Davis, should this not be a priority, not just for safety reasons but also for the sake of the environment?  Would it not be better for people to have a good safe bike route for the seven-mile trek, and so encourage alternative transportation?

As I wrote in 2007, “The city of Davis was the first city to have dedicated bike paths, however, it is time for Davis to expand itself with a far-reaching view into the next century. Davis needs to lead the way to help push the county to expand its bike access paths so that safety can be a high priority for all bicyclists. Just as importantly, the more people we can get out of their combustion-driven cars and into alternative means of transportation, the better we will be able to reduce our carbon footprint, a stated goal of the city council.”

Unfortunately, budget realities and the economy have probably doomed this project until at least the next person’s life ends the way Mr. Tanner’s did.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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11 Comments

  1. E Roberts Musser

    First of all, we are in a spiraling downward economy, so not every dream project is going to be economically feasible.

    Secondly, and no disrespect meant towards the victim in this case, but what the heck is a bicyclist doing driving his bike at 9:45 pm at night on a county road right down the middle of it in the pitch dark? Why was he not off to one side? Did he have a bike light so he could see properly and stay off to one side? Was he wearing reflective clothing so cars could see him? Was it absolutely necessary for him to be there at that time of night on a bicycle?

    There will be many arguments from bicyclists that they should be able to bike anywhere, anytime, anyhow. But common sense dictates certain precautions. I have much more sympathy for the parolee living in Davis, who has to get to Woodland for an early morning job or check in w his parole officer, cannot take the bus bc it does not run early enough, cannot afford a car, so has no choice but to bike. But even the parolee should wear reflective clothing, ride to one side – normal precautions that any bicyclist should take when sharing the road w cars.

    Yes, ideally a bike path between Davis and Woodland would be preferable in a perfect world, but these are tough economic times. There is no money for such a bike path, if there is no money for basic social services…

  2. Alphonso

    How do we know the the bike rider was in the middle of the road? The only person who saw that was the driver who killed the victim.

    It really would be quite easy to put in a bike path – just close the northbound lane of Road 99 to car traffic and designate the space for bicycles only.

  3. Eric Gelber

    This is a public safety issue, not fluff. Regardless of where Mr. Tanner may have been riding, it’s damn scary riding on the “shoulders” of local county roads.

    Public works projects create jobs and stimulate the economy. This was, at least in theory, the idea behind the stimulus (although, it relied too heavily on tax breaks rather than putting money into the economy). So, I’m not sure one can justifiably rely on tough economic times as an excuse for not improving our transportation infrastucture.

  4. Rifkin

    [i]”It really would be quite easy to put in a bike path – just close the northbound lane of Road 99 to car traffic and designate the space for bicycles only.”[/i]

    My preference would be to obtain (through emminent domain) 15 feet of farmland (7.5 feet on either side) so that full sized bike paths* could be constructed north and southbound from Covell Blvd to Road 29 on Road 99.

    15 feet for 2 miles is 1.82 acres. My guess is that farmland is valued for tax purposes at roughly $5,000 per acre. If the price in emminent domain were double that, the county would pay $18,182 for the 15 feet of widened roadway.

    I suspect the county can afford that and any other costs it would take to stripe the lanes and extend the ashphalt paving. If not, I would support raising a tax for this puropose.

    *I am happy to be corrected if someone knows that my guess of 15 feet is wrong or insufficient. I am basing that on my experience biking on that stretch, where there are shoulders, though in places amounting to almost nothing.

    I want to add one more thing about Mr. Tanner riding in the middle of the road. I have no idea if it is true or not. A friend of his on The Enterprise website said it is likely not the case. Regardless, in my experience riding on rural roads in Yolo County and Solano County, I have found that some top riders–far better riders than I am–do ride in the middle of the road where (I think they think) that they might be more easily seen by motor vehicles. I never do that. And I never ride in the dark. However, I am a dilettante on a bicycle and I defer to people who do a lot more riding to know if my observation about rider safety in the middle of the road holds any water.

    [i]”Public works projects create jobs and stimulate the economy.”[/i]

    You are wrong. But it is off the subject, so I won’t bother to set you straight.

  5. jrberg

    To those of us who are seriously interested in cycling safety and parity, this is the latest sad incident which will probably not get investigated thoroughly enough to know why it happened. Several red flags were raised for me in the original story.

    “Riding in the middle of the lane” As Alphonso said, how do we know? CHP reports consist of witness statements, which unless they do an independent investigation based on skid marks and other evidence, may or may not represent the truth. That portion of Rd. 99 has no shoulders, so many drivers may state that a cyclist anywhere in the roadway is “in the middle of the lane.”

    Lights – there was a vague reference to a light, but they couldn’t say whether it was front or rear facing. That, to me, represents a really sloppy investigation. Where was the light attached on the bike? Was there evidence that it was turned on? Unfortunately, unlike motor vehicles, there are no standards for lights on bikes. The lights available that will satisfy (in many cases barely) current law range from barely visible $3 models up to $500 systems that will (literally) blind oncoming drivers.

    Bike lanes – Road 99 has a bike route designation from Woodland to Road 29, with appropriate shoulder bike lanes. The bike route then turns left at Rd. 29 onto very good bike lanes. Someone new to the area, especially at night, might miss the turn, and end up on the two miles of Rd. 99 with no shoulders whatsoever. This has been one of the frustrating things about that route to me – if most of the route has been designed to accommodate bikes, why not the last stretch into Davis?

    I don’t expect the CHP to expend any more energy to find out the root causes for this tragedy, since it didn’t involve multiple automobiles running into each other, but it would be nice if some public agency expended some effort into understanding why and how such crashes happen, so that we could apply that knowledge to improving the transportation system for all.

  6. Mr Obvious

    jrberg,

    Why do you assume a full investigation wont be done by the CHP? CHP’s investigation will be independent, who else would the state authority on traffic collisions depend on to assist?

    Are you assuming the CHP investigation is sloppy because of the lack of clarity on the use of lights in the newspaper article? Have you asked the reporter?

    Here is part of the article from the DD.

    [quote]According to the CHP, Tanner was in the middle of the southbound traffic lane while riding his bicycle when he was struck from behind by a 1990 Acura Integra driven by Ibrahim Almajali, 40, of Woodland, who for some reason didn’t see Tanner in front of this vehicle. Almajali was traveling at about 55 mph at the time.[/quote]

    How do you know the CHP didn’t examine skid marks at the scene?

    Finally. The requirements for lights and reflectors is clear as day in the California Vehicle Code under section 21201. Please check it out on the DMV web page and educate yourself.

  7. jrberg

    Mr. Obvious says:

    [i]
    Why do you assume a full investigation wont be done by the CHP? CHP’s investigation will be independent, who else would the state authority on traffic collisions depend on to assist? [/i]

    I hope they will do a full investigation, but if the CHP is going to release preliminary details that could be challenged later, that is not a good sign that they will do a fair investigation. Why do you believe that this cyclist was in the middle of the lane?

    [i]Are you assuming the CHP investigation is sloppy because of the lack of clarity on the use of lights in the newspaper article? Have you asked the reporter?[/i]

    No – I’m just questioning the details of the story. That’s the right of anyone who reads a story about any event.

    [i]Here is part of the article from the DD.

    According to the CHP, Tanner was in the middle of the southbound traffic lane while riding his bicycle when he was struck from behind by a 1990 Acura Integra driven by Ibrahim Almajali, 40, of Woodland, who for some reason didn’t see Tanner in front of this vehicle. Almajali was traveling at about 55 mph at the time.

    How do you know the CHP didn’t examine skid marks at the scene?
    [/i]
    What does your quoted paragraph above have to do with the CHP’s investigation, including skid marks?

    [i]Finally. The requirements for lights and reflectors is clear as day in the California Vehicle Code under section 21201. Please check it out on the DMV web page and educate yourself. [/i]

    I am well aware of the requirements for lights and reflectors in the CVC. They are vague and inadequate. They merely require that lights be seen from a certain distance, but don’t define the types of lights or the conditions under which they can be seen.

    Why are you attacking me about these issues? A human being was killed on this road, and I am questioning the policies of the state, or county, perhaps, that led to this person losing his life. What is your point?

  8. medwoman

    We have enough money for a 5 story parking structure, but not enough for a safe bike lane ?
    Could there possibly be an issue with our priorities here or is this another example of Elaine’s frequently ( and appropriately) made point about silos.

  9. Rifkin

    [i]”We have enough money for a 5 story parking structure, but not enough for a safe bike lane?”[/i]

    What makes you so sure we have enough money for the parking structure?

    Aside from that, the parking structure is in the City of Davis. The bike lane which is needed is outside the City in Yolo County. If you have not followed the spending habits of Yolo County–that is, if you have not read my columns criticizing how the County wastes money–you might not know that they County is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt to its employees and its retirees and has not yet reformed the way it does business. So don’t count on Yolo County doing the right thing.

  10. Alphonso

    “So don’t count on Yolo County doing the right thing. “

    That is why a street like Road 99 should be designated a bike way. The road was mainly built to move farm equipment and handle limited local traffic from the few homes along the way. There are two other road routes from the west side of Davis to Woodland – 113 and Pedrick. Both of those roads are wide and are safe for relatively high speed traffic. Road 99 in narrow, it is underutilized and many people in cars use it to go fast. People know the CHP are less likely to monitor Road 99 so many people use it as a way to avoid speed control. People driving between Davis and Woodland should be convinced to stay off Road 99, leaving it for local residents, farm equipment and bikes. There are a number of ways to accomplish that goal – limit the speed to 35MPH, add a bunch of stop signs, or close one lane to cars and only allow one way traffic (except for farm equipment). I am talking about doing this from Davis all the way to Woodland. You end up with a safe bike way at almost zero cost.

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